Town Manager’s Column: (September 2016)

by Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager
September 2016

The PFOA contamination issue and response continues. Vermont DEC has planned another public meeting for Wednesday September 28th at Bennington College’s CAPA at 6 pm. Bids have been received for the first project to connect those with contaminated wells where the municipal service is directly available. This project does include a small water main extension along Waite Drive to pick up an additional three homes. Currently, the State is planning to pay for this, but negotiations are on-going with Saint-Gobain to have them pay for this project. The Town’s survey responses continue to trickle in. Of 435 mailings to those in affected areas, 368 have been returned. Of those 293 seek connection to the municipal system; 53 have indicated they do not wish to connect. Some were already connected; some responses were open land with no buildings.

The SVSU Act 46 Study Committee has voted to disband in order to allow North Bennington to pursue its K-12 choice option. After several conversations, Superintendent Jim Culkeen and I thought it would be beneficial to put on a forum wherein several consolidation options and their financial impacts could be shown. It is a way to keep the conversation alive while the individual districts decide a next course of action. It is scheduled for 6 pm, September 27th, at the Bennington Fire Facility public space. We are hoping for a good turnout from all the districts and hope to generate continuing discussions. I am told an individual from the Agency of Education is planning to attend. We hope to have CAT TV film it. Of course, the Banner, BNN, and WBTN will be welcome as well.

On another front, the Town of Bennington continues its efforts to correct mechanical failures at its Waste Water Treatment Plant on Harrington Road. Several process units (RBC’s) failed within a short time frame creating a very bad odor problem and causing several permit exceedances. Vermont DEC visited the site and sent the Town an order seeking compliance and repair within a 45 day time frame. The Town is already ahead of that schedule. We have ordered 10 new drive units at a cost of $187,000, the monies taken from the equipment reserves established some time ago. An additional 4 units were nearly ready to go back on line last week. We have hired an engineer to guide us through the compliance process. The company that manufactures the drive units will be on site this week to install start-up mechanisms to avoid continuing failure of the units. I’ve stayed away from a very technical discussion here. Suffice it to say that this particular process is key to an effective treatment process. We have sent letters outlining our plan for compliance to adjoining property owners. We hope to have the system functioning properly by the end of September, a full month ahead of the compliance deadline. Our staff at the Facility, and those from other Town departments called upon to help them, have worked tirelessly to rectify the problems. This is an aging facility in need of upgrades. Our plan was to ask for bond support in March, 2018. Given the recent events, we may be forced to move forward in March of 2017. The repairs and their effective operation will guide us.

On a more pleasurable note, at its last meeting, the Select Board gave the nod to Polly Van Der Linde of Sonatina to paint the crosswalks at the 4 corners as piano keys. It is a way to bring art and culture to the streetscape. It is also an ambitious project given the high volume of traffic we see through the 4 corners on a daily basis.

Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.

Stuart Hurd is Bennington’s Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.